The Cherokee religion

The songs and dances of Cherokee ceremonies and how their language is used as part of Christian wors

The Cherokee’s are very religious people. Before European contact we were religious in knowing we had a creator, and worshipped him through song and dance. The man would sing the songs and woman would keep a beat to the songs through instruments called shackles. They are made from turtle shells with river rocks inside and attached to a piece of leather; these are strapped to both of the woman’s legs.

Today some people use aluminum cans filled with pebbles to provide rhythm while they dance around the eternal fire.

When they dance they are singing and praying to the creator, just like people do today in the churches.

When one goes to a dance these days the families gather to visit, feast and they dance far into the night.

This is a place to worship and in the Cherokee language we call God, or creator, U-ne-tla-nv. This is our church, and just like any other churches you have no littering, liquor, and/or rowdy behavior.

Although we did not know him as God, it is the same person that we worshiped back then. Today some of the dances still go on the same way.

We had European influence and the missionaries who started pushing religion on us; because all of the beliefs were already there, it was very easy to switch the Cherokee’s into Christianity.

I believe most native tribe’s are very religious in their own way, because of the fact we live so close with the earth. Although some have evolved or others have been modified, the traditional Cherokee’s of today recognize the belief system as an integral part of day to day life.

Many Cherokees today go to church just as any other person does. I, personally, went to both the dances and churches while growing up. Although my father did not fully understand the dances, he did not forbid us from going.

Our father was a minister in some local churches and he would preach the sermon in the Cherokee language in the Tahlequah, Oklahoma, area where we lived and is considered Capital of the Cherokee Nation. Our mother grew up going to the Stomp dances as her religion while she was growing up. When she met our father and started raising their family they both started attending the local church.

A person can be of any denomination but most of the Cherokee people and family’s that I know are of Baptist faith. In the past they had all Cherokee preaching churches and also what we called a ‘white man’ church; all of the services would be preached in the English language. In the Cherokee churches these days they share both languages. There are not as many Cherokee’s that speak their native tongue anymore, so the sermons in the churches are done in the Cherokee language and in English, as well as, the songs that are sung in the Churches.

Most of my family still speak the Cherokee language and believe in God, Creator or U-ne-tla-nv as our lord and savior.

Kathy Van Buskirk is a Cherokee from Oklahoma, USA. She has been married for 25 years to Perry. They have two children, Christopher 25 and Melissa 10. She has worked at the Cherokee Heritage Center for 20 years.
Getty
Show Hide image

Labour's Eurosceptics should steer clear of loaded language

Phrases such as "wholesale importation" leave the impression Labour will not speak for migrant workers.

Nothing reflects Britain’s division over Brexit than the Labour party. Do we want soft or hard Brexit? What do we prioritise? The fractures within the party’s ranks is a portrait of the divisions splintering the country.

Labour’s ambiguity over Brexit helped it in the general election in appealing to everyone. It convinced Remain voters that they could hold the Tories to account while promising the Leave voters that the referendum decision would be respected. But now clarity is needed. 

The Labour leadership seems to be angling for a hard Brexit, wishing to leave the single market and customs union on the grounds that this honours the wishes of the 52 per cent. Ironically, they are at odds with everyone in this situation, from the general public – who favour access to single market over immigration controls – to a poll in LabourList showing that 72 per cent of readers prioritised inclusion within the single market.

Jeremy Corbyn's lukewarm attitude to the EU is well documented. If the Labour Party are serious about their public ownership plans for the railways and energy, it’s likely they envision it being made difficult within the EU because of directives which create competition between the state and the private sector. There are unexplored alternatives to this, as seen in Germany and Italy where private companies are made and run the industries with the states acting as the major shareholders of the company. However it’s unlikely to see the hard left ever accepting this, given its disdain for both the private sector and the idea of it interacting with the state to deliver services.

But this is not all that should trouble progressives regarding the Labour leadership’s stance on Brexit. During a recent Andrew Marr programme in which he appeared on, Corbyn claimed that mass immigration had been used to denigrate the conditions for British workers, saying that there was a “wholesale importation” of workers from parts of Europe which would then undermine the rights of British workers. It’s an argument that has been regurgitated by British politicians consistently in recent years – but from the right, not the left.

The idea that migrants are taking British jobs and depressing wages does not hold up to evidence at all. The London School of Economics carried out a research which illustrated increases in migration from the EU did not result in depression of British wages. That’s not to suggest that wages have not stagnated, but rather the trend is linked to the financial crash in 2008, rather than migration. Corbyn’s defenders insist that there were no deliberate racist overtones in his argument, and that the villains are employers deliberately taking advantage of an easily exploited labour market. But the manner in which Corbyn framed his speech was worrying.

The reason for this is that Brexit has created an unbelievable sense of uncertainty, insecurity and fear amongst migrants. Their position in society is now being contested by politicians with different stakes in society to them. Xenophobic abuse – legitimised as an acceptable part of political discourse by Brexit – has been climbing swiftly. Immigrants are seen as threats to British jobs and that is a narrative consistently drummed out – not just since last year but for possibly the past decade.

This is not to say that Labour should not address how some employers might seek to cut costs by hiring foreign workers on a cheap rate. But phrases such as “wholesale importation” or even using the heavily demonised “mass migration” simply sketches the idea that Labour are swinging towards the hard Brexit voters, and in doing so leaving migrant workers to be defended by no one. If the intended idea was to castigate employers, it simply entrenched the idea of immigration as a problem. Rather than bringing British and migrant workers together, you know with that whole “workers of the world unite” idea, Corbyn’s framing of the argument keeps them pitted against each other.

If Brexit has shown us anything it’s that language matters in politics in how it transmits its message to people. Slogans such as “take back control” were attacks on multiculturalism and immigration, stoking white nationalism, even if the Leave campaign insisted it wasn’t about that. Likewise, Corbyn might insist it wasn’t about migrants, but his message sounded a lot like he was blaming freedom of movement for the suppression of wage growth in Britain.

Needless to say, Labour need a rethink on what kind of Brexit it pursues.